Girls Soccer: Injuries mount as Rochelle rallies over Mendota

Sophomore Makayla Lara races a Mendota defender down the field during the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity soccer match against the Trojans on Tuesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Late second-half goals allow Lady Hubs to outlast Trojans 5-3

ROCHELLE — Adversity mounted for the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity soccer team as the purple and white looked to secure their first win of the season against the Mendota Trojans on Tuesday.

Using crisp ball movement and gusty backwinds to their advantage, the Lady Hubs controlled the ball on the Mendota side of the field for most of the first half, where three different players scored goals to help Rochelle take a 3-1 lead. With fatigue setting in and the Trojans receiving the backwind during the second half, however, Mendota rallied for consecutive unanswered goals to tie the score at 3-3 as a multitude of cramps and injuries depleted Rochelle’s lineup.

Needing a spark as the second half wound to a close, the suddenly short-handed Lady Hubs overcame their obstacles, scoring two unanswered goals over the final 10 minutes of regulation time to outlast the Trojans for a 5-3 victory. Senior midfielder Mavi Avila led Rochelle (1-0, 0-0 Interstate 8) with two goals, while three players including junior forwards Sydney Thorne and Kara Martinez as well as sophomore midfielder Makayla Lara each added one goal in the win.

“It feels good to get that first win,” head coach Brad Male said. “We still have some things to work on and we’re putting some players in positions where they don’t have much experience. We’re hoping to keep progressing as the season moves forward. I thought we moved the ball well in the first half and we had much better communication there than in the second half.”

The Lady Hubs wasted no time taking their first lead of the season, with Lara launching an unassisted goal into the Mendota net during the second minute. Rochelle extended its lead during the 14th minute, where a left-footed pass from Thorne inside the Trojan penalty area found Avila for the team’s second goal of the match. Trailing 2-0, Mendota capitalized on a breakaway opportunity during the 16th minute, rolling a shot into the back of the Rochelle net.

Martinez answered for the Lady Hubs, taking advantage of a short goal kick by the Mendota goalkeeper and lifting a right-footed shot over the head of the goalkeeper to give Rochelle a 3-1 lead in the 18th minute. The 3-1 score held until early in the second half, where the Trojans used the backwind as well as some miscommunication inside the Lady Hub penalty area to convert goals in the 44th and 57th minutes, evening the score with about 20 minutes left.

“Communication is a key factor for us,” Male said. “We had some miscommunication during the second half and we had some injuries. We need to make sure we’re warmed up and ready to go for these colder matches. It was nice to see our girls finish strong and I thought our teamwork picked up over the final minutes. We made sure we were communicating and making our runs.”

While Mendota’s offense applied the pressure, Rochelle saw several starters including Lara as well as sophomore midfielders Emma Kennay, Betty Flores and freshman defender Abbey Bozinovich sidelined with cramps and other injuries during the second half. Running on fumes as the game drew to a close, Rochelle regained control during the 70th minute, where senior defender Kailey Harris threaded the needle on a pass to Avila that put the team ahead 4-3.

The Lady Hubs iced the victory during the 77th minute, surging ahead 5-3 after a corner kick by Martinez knifed through the Mendota defense and landed at the foot of Thorne, who blasted a short-range shot from deep inside the Trojan penalty area for the final goal of the evening. The Lady Hubs will face Sterling on Thursday before hosting Stillman Valley on Friday at 4:30 p.m.